One of the first things I notice on the spectacular flight into the city are the skyscrapers.
Huge and neat like giant lego towers they sit everywhere between and on the mountains that form Hong Kong City. Around these obvious signs of mother nature’s suppression, she shows her undiminished beauty: the concrete masses are surrounded by green hills and mountains.
The late afternoon light with a slightly foggy air sets the scenery for soft shadows of blue. I feel as if I am flying right into a painting.
I have 24hrs in the city and soak it in. Everything seems perfectly organised, and rather safe. Strolling around Kennedy Town on Hong Kong, the island, in the evening, I see lots of (younger/working age) people exercising in the park, and older people taking a stroll. Food is delicious.
I return to my airbnb apartment early and meet my landlord. I learn that he is from India, Delhi. He says everything is so different in Hong Kong. With 7.5 m inhabitants only one third of that of Delhi. People walk so slowly. And space is rare and costly. The apartment is located very centrally, but on standards I know from Germany, I would not call it spacious. From where he lived previously in Hong Kong, it seems to be though. I learn that because of the little space at home, people usually always eat out and never invite someone at home. But they are very friendly, my host says.
He works for an investment bank. He had been working at the same bank in Delhi for 4 years. Life was just work then, 12hrs at the office per day plus 1hr each way to get there and back. A little less hours in Hong Kong (although his investment banker flatmate returns after 11pm that night). He tells me that you can earn and save good money in Hong Kong. I should try as well. I could work for German companies with business in Hong Kong or for Asian companies with business in Germany. There was a lot of money in Hong Kong. Teachers speaking Cantonese and English as native speakers were earning 1500 HK Dollars per hour.
I should have said something about what money is to me: That it is nothing but a means for a “higher” goal. That it will never be worth putting my life on hold for the sake of figures flowing into my bank account. That money is a game world of its own and not something very real, and certainly not my religion. But somehow I kept it to myself.
I get up early next morning, put on my running shoes and join the crowd that is already populating the little park just outside the apartment. Besides the sound of exotic chirping through the city noises, I hear Chinese music everywhere. Older people have gathered for their morning Tai Chi and are scattered all over the parc. I would like to join them but instead I only watch them. It is quite heartwarming how the women have spread out a piece of newspaper to place their bags on. Noteworthy that the older generation seems to be in good shape, and I notice many old people throughout my stay!
I manage to visit Victoria Peak and take the Star Ferry later on. Beautiful weather. Indeed, people walk slowly and seem friendly. And as much as the city fascinates me, I have difficulties in believing that any human being could truly enjoy living in such an environment of stapled shoeboxes, running in the hamster wheel day in and day out. Even if it is a luxurious one for some.
I tried to imagine how people might have lived there in the stone age – and learned that the first settlement does actually reach back that far. That the wealth of the city came from opium trade, on which the UK had its grip, seemed apalling to me. Call me naive but in that moment I realized once more that our westerly richness is built on lack of integrity, and on the backs of others, to their detriment, squeezing them out. But that’s a different story.
With all these impressions, and more, I leave the city. Off to yet another part of the world.